A 7-year-old girl, “Little Miss USA,” gets her picture taken in a white, jewel-encrusted hard hat. A volunteer shouts “Yee-haw!” as he cuts paving stones for a walkway. A hundred volunteers clad in matching blue shirts move like ants in the garage, on the sidewalk, and in front of the house as community members watch.
Last week, ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” came to Moorhead, and the sense of community reminded many Cobbers of the positive atmosphere during the 2009 flood.
“People were really excited,” Becca Bellman, a junior, said. “You could see the emotions… and the energy day to day and hour to hour.”
Although Bellman did not volunteer early enough to receive a shift, she wanted to support the community.
“Some people dislike the [publicity and money] of the show,” Bellman said, “but it’s not about supporting the show. It’s about supporting the cause… It’s still a good idea.”
This project provided a handicap-accessible home for Bill and Adair Grommesh’s 9-year-old son, Garrett, who was born with spina bifida, a defect affecting the spine, and uses a wheelchair, according to the project’s Web site. Their 11-year-old daughter, Peighton, has Axenfeld-Rieger syndrome, a developmental disorder usually affecting teeth, eyes and abdominal region.
Bill and Adair manage HOPE, Inc., a non-profit with a vision “to enhance the quality of life for children who are physically and mentally challenged and their families,” according to hopeinconline.org.
The Grommesh’s old house was moved to north Moorhead, renovated, and given to the family of one of Garrett’s classmates. The Hajdari family came to the United States as refugees from Kosovo. Both parents and four daughters were living in a two-bedroom apartment, according to a Concordia news release.
Concordia College also gave $385,000 in tuition packages to the six children involved in the project at the unveiling of the former Grommesh home for the Hajdaris. The two Grommesh kids received four-year, full-tuition scholarships and the Hajdari family received a four-year scholarship package valued at $160,000, according to a Concordia news release.
Mark Krejci, provost and dean of the college, worked on a window installation crew and drove a shuttle, but “the greater pleasure was being at the event on Saturday when I was able to present the news about the scholarships to the two families,” he said in an e-mail interview.
Many Fargo-Moorhead residents were interested in the show, according to Preston Johnson, a senior and production assistant for the show. After the Grommesh house was moved on Monday, Oct. 4, bulldozers dug the basement, and spectators watched from across Eighth Street.
“I thought ‘Is it really that interesting to watch bulldozers?’” Johnson said. “But it is, because it’s Extreme Makeover.”
By Friday night, Oct. 8, the house looked nearly finished as volunteers finished the garage, lawn, and outer landscaping touches.
The willingness of the businesses and community members to put their lives on hold for a week is the only way Extreme Makeover can keep helping people, executive producer Brady Connell told an excited crowd.
“It [was] just really fun to see the community of people there and how everyone [was] really excited,” Anthony Eddleston, a junior who drove a shuttle, said.
Eddleston got involved, because “it reminded me of the flood. It’s a totally different thing, but the sense of community and the feeling that you’re doing something important [is similar],” he said. “Who knows if I’ll ever get a chance to do something like this again.”
Eddleston, who usually likes to be directly involved, had to adapt.
“I didn’t really do much… I wish I could [have been] there to see exactly what [was] going on,” Eddleston said, “but I know everyone plays a part… [it pushed] me to not feel that way all of the time.”
Johnson’s work as a production assistant required 12-hour shifts and a college willing to let him miss a week of class.
“The CSTA [communication studies and theater arts] department and the provost’s office made it very manageable to a part of something like this,” Johnson said. “This is BREW. This is being engaged in [my future] career and…engaged in our community.”
I am a senior majoring in political science and journalism, and I am minoring in music. Next year, I will study law at the University of St. Thomas, and I can’t believe my time at Concordia has gone so quickly.